Rassie Erasmus holds hands up as error almost lets Edinburgh off hook
Munster’s dominant scrum provides platform for first bonus-point victory
Munster centre Cian Bohane ensures Edinburgh’s Damien Hoyland is going nowhere at Thomond Park on Saturday afternoon. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Munster’s dominant scrum helped them to a first bonus-point win of the season, but they were stinging in their analysis of a disjointed final quarter that almost allowed Edinburgh back in the game.
Two Conor Murray tries off the back of their scrummaging prowess had given Munster a 14-7 half-time lead, before replacement Conor Oliver and Dave O’Callaghan ran in two more tries in the opening 17 minutes of the second half.
But following a period of uncontested scrums and a run of injuries that saw Stephen Archer finish the game at flanker, Munster lost control of a game that was going to plan.
John Hardie’s try gave Edinburgh hope, and Rassie Erasmus pointed the blame firmly at his own door for his lack of knowledge of the rules.
Early on Jack O’Donoghue was stretchered when Fraser McKenzie collided with him at a ruck, an event that referee Ben Whitehouse deemed to be foul play and worthy of a yellow card. Erasmus wrongly thought he was then allowed an extra replacement as a result.
“I think we must always be honest with the supporters, people out there and you guys. I made an error there. I thought because we lost a player because of foul play you can get another sub on,” said Erasmus.
“We wanted to put Niall Scannell back on as flank, but they said because he was on already that we couldn’t. That was a technical thing I got wrong.
“With a prop at flank, at lineout and in the scrum sometimes it’s just impossible to get anything going. Certainly there was a little bit of almost panic there at one stage, a guy looks next to him and he sees Archie packing next to him at flank and at lock.
“That’s pointing fingers at myself. I said to Axel: ‘I’m sure we have got another sub to go in there.’ I think that’s how the momentum swung, obviously from my side.”
Certainly Munster were thrown off kilter when Edinburgh’s replacement tighthead Allan Dell was also sin-binned early in the second-half. Starting number three Kevin Bryce had earlier left the field with an elbow injury, which then resulted in uncontested scrums. Munster’s most potent weapon had to be put back on the shelf.
But their superiority must be qualified too. Edinburgh had rested Ross Ford and WP Nel from their daunting frontrow of last season, which was also shorn of the injured Alasdair Dickinson.
Bryce is a recently converted hooker, while Dell is the club’s third-choice loosehead. There will be sterner tests ahead, says Erasmus.
“We will get stiffer opposition as we go on. I am not saying this team was weak at all, overall. I am just saying for the teams we have played so far we have done well at scrum time and are getting some solidness around the scrum where it was a fragile facet before.
Ticking the box
“The big, big guns will come now. Italian teams like scrumming. You start playing Leinster, Leicester and Racing, those guys enjoying scrummaging.
“We are ticking the box so far at scrummaging, but there are going to be some reality checks in the next few weeks.”
But in their post-game analysis Munster were pretty severe on themselves. At one stage in the second half their dominance was so complete that it looked as if they would win by a landslide. In the space of three minutes before their fourth try, Munster forced five penalties to be conceded within touching distance of the Edinburgh try-line.
Three scrums and two mauled lineouts later CJ Stander had twice been denied by brave defending by Duncan Weir, but the breakthrough eventually came when Tyler Bleyendaal put O’Callaghan through a hole.
O’Callaghan later joined O’Donoghue, Jean Kleyn and the outstanding Oliver on the heaving treatment table, a plethora of injured backrows to add to the ill Donnacha Ryan and concussed Tommy O’Donnell.
As Munster let their dominance slip, Edinburgh once again showed they are a side with huge character.
John Hardie crossed for their second try 13 minutes from time, but Munster managed to reorganise to close out the game.
If Edinburgh get their first choice frontrow available, they will be a real threat to Connacht next week.
MUNSTER: I Keatley; D Sweetnam, K Earls, C Bohane, R O’Mahony; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, B Holland; D O’Callaghan, J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander. Replacements: C Oliver for O’Donoghue (13 mins), D O’Shea for O’Shea (44 mins), J Cronin for Kilcoyne (57 mins), D Casey for Scannell, D Williams for Murray, A Wootton for Bleyendaal (all 59 mins), S Archer for O’Callaghan (69 mins).
EDINBURGH: G Bryce; D Hoyland, M Allen, C Dean, T Brown; D Weir, S Hidalgo-Clyne; R Sutherland, S McInally, K Bryce; F McKenzie, B Toolis; M Bradbury, H Watson, C Du Preez. Replacements: A Dell for K Bryce (6 mins), J Hardie for Watson (25-34 mins), J Cosgrove for Du Preez (52-59 mins), B Kinghorn for Weir (52 mins), N Cochrane for McInally, Hardie for Du Preez, S Kennedy for Hidalgo-Clyne (all 59 mins), L Carmichael for McKenzie (69 mins), R Scholes for Allen (72 mins).
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).